Walking into Boxcar Grocer in downtown Atlanta, I instantly felt good. The same warm and fuzzy feeling I fet walking in to a cozy coffee shop, a friendly cafe or even a chilled-out lunge in one of my favorite neighborhoods And though Boxcar does have some of those elements combined, serving sandwiches and providing tables and window barstools to sit and work on your laptop, it is a corner grocery store- selling organic food.
Sophie Kilma’s Store Eager Street and Bradford Street, Baltimore, Maryland December 22, 1907 John Dubas (fl. 1905-1973) 8 x 10 inch glass negative Arthur U. Hooper Memorial Collection Baltimore City Life Museum Collection Maryland Historical Society MC9235 B
Writing a new story - The Drugstore Girl revisited (The Drowned Man)
I recently followed Sonya Cullingford’s version of the Drugstore Girl, and her story of desperate longing, of feeling trapped by life and wanting things to change struck a chord with me. It was such a beautifully nuanced and emotional loop that I couldn’t help but write about it.
I never thought, though, that I’d be writing a sequel to that recap.
But I am. Because in the last loop of the late show on Saturday July 5 – the second last show of The Drowned Man, and the last time Sonya would ever play the Drugstore Girl – something finally changed.
Warning – details of Sonya’s last performance as the Drugstore Girl start from here. That said, what happened that night was very much a one-off – as somebody once sang, I don’t think it will ever happen again.
But if you do read on you’ll get massive closure on the Drugstore Girl’s story – and the Grocer’s too.
I walk into the drugstore towards the end of the second loop, just in time to see the Drugstore Girl’s final, fatal scene with the Grocer (Jesse Kovarsky) play out. Clapping manically, he drags her lifeless body into the middle of the drugstore. “Perfect,” he whispers down at her, “that was perfect. That was your finest performance.”
He leaves, and Harry Greener (James Traherne) steps in and helps the Drugstore Girl to her feet. From here, things start to play out as they always do, the loop repeating itself – the Drugstore Girl caught yet again in cycle of inevitable disappointment.
But as the loop continues, a feeling of finality starts to develop. A sense that this is the last time the Drugstore Girl will do these things.
Throughout the loop she liberally pours out shots of vodka – to everyone. Every time she slides a glass of lemonade over to a white-masked customer a healthy dose of vodka goes in too. When preparing a glass of lemonade to wheel over to the Grocer on her rollerskates, a shot of vodka also goes in.
And then, after coming back from the hoedown, she looks up at the five or so white-masked customers standing at her counter. She looks each of us in the eye, places a coffee cup in front of each of us, and one for herself. She pours a shot of vodka into each cup, picks up hers, and offers us a toast: “Here’s to those beautiful people out there in the dark.”
It hits me then that she’s saying goodbye. After tonight, we won’t be seeing her again.
We all raise our cups, clink them together and down the vodka. A moment of unity. There are a couple of sharp intakes of breath around the counter – the Drugstore Girl smiles. “I guess y’all prefer coffee, huh?”
Andy (Rob McNeil) suddenly runs in, and for one last time she tries to calm him down, to tell him she loves him – but yet again, he sprints out, knocking the stand of postcards to the ground. And yet again she sadly gathers them up. When she stands she hands some postcards out to the customers who have helped her scoop them up – another note of finality, of saying goodbye.
She moves behind the counter again, and her gaze flickers over to the script pinned to the wall.
She pulls it down, places it on the counter, and picks up a pen. She knows what she can write. She knows what will happen. She can summon the Grocer, looking for answers. And he can come in, and they can be caught in the cycle all over again. The same loop, over and over, day in, day out.
But no. Not this time.
It’s time to write a new story.
A determined look crosses her face, and she starts scribbling at the bottom of the script.
She runs away with her new friend and they live happily ever after.
She looks up at us, defiant, and throws her hands up in the air: “I quit!”
As she marches out of the drugstore, I barely manage to suppress an urge to cheer. Instead, my eyes fill with tears as my heart lifts. Because she’s finally doing it – she’s finally breaking free. And it’s not because her long dreamed of white knight has come to her rescue. This is her life, and she’s taking control.
In fact, she’s just about to become somebody else’s white knight, coming to his rescue.
She marches into the grocery store – the Grocer looks up, his eyes filled with tears.
“Look, let’s just run,” she says. “Let’s just get out of here.”
He nods, giving her an enormous smile through his tears. Her takes her hands, and together they walk into the main street. “This town ain’t big enough for the two of us,” he says, smiling. They press their foreheads together. They’re both holding a rose, and it’s clear who the roses are for – they’re for each other. “On the count of three?”
Eugene (no longer the Grocer): One …
Kathe (no longer the Drugstore Girl): Two …
Holding hands they sprint through the town, laughing. I follow, and I glimpse them running down the stairs, hear them still laughing – and then they’re gone. They’re out. They’re free.
Any guy who has spent some time in the kitchen knows it matters what goes into your recipes, not just how baller they are. Getting fresh produce is the best way to guarantee you’re serving it up gourmet. Bottom line is, join a CSA. It’s easy, affordable, and makes everything taste better. I signed up for Washington’s Green Grocer (latest delivery pictured).